Mother to Mothers: Bedtime or bad-time?

I was very pleased to see that in my son’s nursery school the educators put extreme emphasis on their daily routines. Things that are thought as ‘boring’ or ‘monotonous’ by most people, are the basics of any kind of education.

Children need to know what is going to happen. If you tell them in advance what they are going to do in 10 minutes, soon and now, they will accept it (even changing diapers), but if you just throw them into an unexpected situation they might react with hostility.
They also like to listen to the same stories and these stories must end in the same way.
They repeat their games, jokes and even naughty moves. Knowing what is going to happen gives them security, it calms them down and makes them feel lords of their time and space.

So the first thing I did after I took my son home from hospital two days after his birth was to set up a routine respecting his times. I jotted down the time he woke up in the morning and started to prepare him for a walk. We went out for a walk for 10 minutes even though it was raining. I started with the evening baths very early and washed him every day, although he was not dirty at all. This was our signal from the very beginning that night time was coming. Once he started to eat solid food, I started to regulate meal times and sat down to eat with him as soon as I got his meals in harmony with ours. We have had dinner together with his daddy since he was 7 months old. My son got his first book when he was 2 days old, with contrasting colors, lines and dots, things that newborn babies love looking at. Even today, reading stories is part of our day. In the evening, we usually read three stories. We sometimes change the books and go back to old ones later. But these bedtime stories are as sure as the sunrise.

All this not only helped us be calm and prepared, manage our time and duties, but it prevented us from having some typical educational problems. Let me give you two examples:

  • We have never had problems with bedtime. It might vary from 9 to 9.30 and if we occasionally go out, it might be even later. But on normal days (and this is most days), we have dinner at 8pm, have a bath afterwards, then milk with 3 short stories, and then ‘night-night-sleep-tight’. Even when he is very tired and tries to be as naughty as possible, he usually falls asleep after two minutes. All this due to our consistent evening routine. Needless to say, our serenity is also a consequence as we have all the time after 9.30 for ourselves.
  • I got pregnant with my daughter when my son was 10 months old. My partner and I used to listen to horror stories about brother-jealousy, regression in children’s development, aggression, etc. So we prepared for the worst. Surprisingly, since the first impact of arriving home from the hospital with the baby-girl, things have been going smoothly. We also have to thank my daughter, who is a very calm baby and gives us time to be with her brother. But the main factor, again, was our daily routine. My son has understood that things didn’t change that much. We go to the nursery school in the morning, have a nap after 1pm, go to the park in the afternoon and daddy comes home after 7pm. At the weekend we go to the seaside but evening routines are always the same. Everything is the same, we just have to carry the baby girl with us.

So my message is: if you have any behavior problems with your kid: if he/she throws tantrums or makes your life miserable with crying and complaining, just look at your days. Ask yourself if you want to guarantee a stable and reliable routine for him/her. If so, start setting it up in your mind, write it down on a piece of paper and then put it into reality.

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